A visual metaphor is a powerful way of telling the audience how to think and feel.
A lot of storytelling is figuring out how to convey to the audience what the characters are going through. You want them to laugh, cry, tremble with fear, and permeate every intention. The goal is to get people to connect with the character, take those emotions to heart, and keep people on their toes as they watch things go. This stuff crosses all genres.
But how can you do that?
As authors and directors, we are told again and again: “Show, don’t tell”. You have to show what’s going on inside people and then get it across to people. But what’s another way to do this outside of actions?
Well, I think a great visual metaphor can help.
Today we’re going to discuss visual metaphors, how to use them, what they are, and how they can help your writing and direction. So get ready to climb this mountain, hit (or miss) the winning shot and blow the bridge.
It’s time to get into visual metaphors.
What is a visual metaphor and how can you use it in your movies (and scripts)?
When you write and direct, images are incredibly important to your storytelling. Not only do you tell the audience what is happening on the screen, but you can add another layer to what you are doing.
Filmmaking is really a visual medium. So let’s try to get the most out of your efforts.
Definition of the visual metaphor
A visual metaphor is an image associated with the specific character arc or theme of the film or television show.
As a creative force, you need to think about what you can bring into the visuals and how they can support your story. It’s not just about looking cool or beautiful, it’s about finding meaning in what these images capture.
The function of visual metaphors
Visual metaphors create meaning from various objects and symbols. When these elements have meaning, they can help move a story forward, relate to an audience, or solidify the subject.
Think about when Cameron’s car crashes at the end of the year Ferris Bueller, and how that is a metaphor, how he stepped out of what his father wanted him to do. Or the way Rocky runs up the stairs to cement his journey into a respected fighter, or even Thanksgiving Day from Parks and recreationwhich shows that well-run government can actually make a big difference.
Communicate your visual metaphors
It’s okay if your visual metaphors don’t spring to mind. They often come to mind when rewriting a design or trying to superimpose a shot into a scene. But whenever they come, you need to communicate them clearly to the audience. That is not always easy.
One way that I think works best is to root them in characters. If you are clear about the character, his arc, and what he is going through, the images that surround him will be very clear to the audience.
Another option is to ensure that the subject of the story is conveyed directly to the audience. Do you know what your movie or TV show is actually about? What is true at the center of the story?
Once those decisions are made, you can base the story on them right away. Remember how Harry Potter bears the scar that Volermort left on his head, which visually connects the two. Or as in American graffitiWhen Curt Henderson sneaks into high school and finds his old locker, it won’t open. That means he’s ready to go to college.
These metaphors tie directly to the themes of the plot and the characters themselves.
Let’s look at a few more examples of visual metaphors.
Examples of visual metaphors
One of the most popular visual metaphors in film and television is the use of stairs. They can mean a goal at the top, an obstacle in our characters’ path, or even a premonition as they do it in Psycho. Characters may fear that once they set foot in, their world will never be the same.
In a movie like Zootopia, Our main rabbit wants a badge that shows that she can be a cop, even if she is small and comes from a different place than the others. This badge and uniform are a visual metaphor for their advancement in society. But for her friend, the fox, the badge scares him and scares him off. He doesn’t want anything to do with it.
Spielberg loves using landmarks as visual metaphors. From building Devil’s Storm to making phone calls at home, he always makes sure his characters are going through something that we can monitor with the visuals.
Tarantino also loves a good visual metaphor. They intersect all over his films, from the recurring Hollywood images in Once upon a time in Hollywood that wrap us in the glitz, glamor and shadow of the city until the Nazis burned in Inglorious Basterdswhere Shoshana appears as a ghost and dies in the projection booth as a double agent while they die downstairs.
Tarantino said it once Film commentary“One of the things I really like about the film is that there is that aspect of the power of cinema … First, it works as this really wonderful metaphor, but through the use of the nitrate prints that make it so flammable, it’s not even like a metaphor. It’s literal. It is actually the cinema itself trying to destroy the Third Reich. For me, this is just the greatest thing that ever was. Make your metaphorical subject tangible and tangible! ”
So make sure your metaphors really stand out and stick with us.
Summary of the visual metaphor used in movies and television
Now that you know all about visual metaphors, consider how you can use them in your work. Get inspiration from the great examples we look at here and maybe some of the examples people write about in the comments.
Remember that film and television are visual media. The more you can say with your pictures, the better.
Let us know what you think in the comments.